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Tuesday 13 December 2022

Reviews: Dead Meadow, Omni Of Halos, Flash Forward, After Lapse (Reviews By Rich Piva & Matt Bladen)

Dead Meadow - Force Form Free (Blues Funeral Recordings) [Rich Piva]

Dead Meadow have been flying the heavy psych flag for a quarter century and are one of the leaders of the genre. Their fuzzed out heavy psych jams are almost always interesting, exciting, and to be celebrated when new material is thrust upon the world. Unfortunately for the D.C. band’s latest record, Force Form Free, the interesting and exciting is kind of missing in a constant way throughout the record resulting in a muddled, plodding experience for the listener. This is unfortunate given how much I love their back catalogue (and for how quickly I pre-ordered the vinyl…but that is a separate issue).

Force Form Free is a tale of two halves of an album. The first half is a bit of a snoozer. The mostly instrumental jams The Left Hand Path, The Lure Of The Next Peak, and Valmont’s Pad fail to grab me in any sort of way and are just kind of there. I guess I just want them to be a bit more rock and a bit fuzzier. These songs seem a bit hallow, especially The Lure. Valmont’s Pad has a nice 60s psych feel to it, but it could be any band playing it; nothing makes me think this is another Dead Meadow classic. 

The second half of the record picks up a bit, with To Let The Time Go By, which is the first song with significant vocals, and is a nice psych/folk track that would fit even better if we had some heavier tracks surrounding it but is a nice addition to the catalogue on its own. The title track is a nice slow burn fuzzy jam to maybe bend your mind to, while Binah is an eight-minute head tripping jam that would fit nicely on several of their other albums.

I love Dead Meadow, but there is something missing for me on Force Form Free. Maybe I am looking for more vocals, or more fuzzy guitars, or more heavy jams, or more rock, or maybe all the above, but there is nothing that really grabs me or keeps my interest like most of their back catalogue does. A disappointment from a band I historically really enjoy. 6/10

Omni Of Halos - Omni Of Halos (Lövely Records) [Rich Piva]

I do love me some 90s grunge/heavy alternative when done right, especially when a band is not afraid to let their pop sensibilities shine through. The debut self-titled album from Sweden’s Omni Of Halos is all about that 90s life, down to getting their record being mixed by a guy who worked with legends such as Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, and Chavez (a personal favourite of mine). The ten tracks delivered here are fun, 90s inspired, pop infused, alternative rock executed extremely well but also with room to grow.
Omni Of Halos call themselves “lo-fi indie rock” on their Bandcamp page which is a bit of an insult to this reviewer who happens to be a huge Guided By Voices fan. 

This is not lo-fi indie rock (I get the indie but the lo-fi not so much), and I think if you went into it thinking it was you would be disappointed. This is 90s heavy power pop and maybe even some 2000’s heavy indie. Think the aforementioned Dinosaur Jr. mashed up with say, Japandroids, and you get a bit of what Omni Of Halos is peddling. That being said, the album is great fun. The opener, You Suck, which is a perfectly titled track for a band so influenced by the 90s, lives up to the description. This would be their single for sure and would have got a ton of airplay in 1996 given how infectiously catchy it is but has just enough of a crunch to trigger a concert goer to hoist up a flannel clad crowd surfer when the first note hits. 

Birds Follow My Path is Dino Jr. worship for sure, but with vocals reminiscent more on the punk side of things rather than Mr. Mascis unique stylings. I get why they call themselves “indie”, but to me this is more like when indie became more mainstream and less when bands like GBV and Sebadoh where recording on boomboxes in their basement. Think more like White Trash Heroes era Archers Of Loaf. Carefree, especially in the vocals, reminds me more of the pop punk explosion in the 90s than anything indie, including how damn catchy the track is, but is still more indie than 90s pop punk, but there is a bit of both going on, in all the best ways. 

Darkest Hour/Final Hour moves more into the Catherine Wheel/Swervedriver territories, and the result is probably my favourite track on the record. Tracks like Empty Shell and No Sleep are catchy and fun alt rock tracks that have just enough snotty attitude to them to keep yourself on the grungy side of the equation, with the latter bringing some steel guitar action (this is sprinkled throughout the record) with great results. Out Of Control is a great closer that is a perfect example of what you get throughout the entire record.

Omni Of Halos wear their influences on their sleeves and leveraged their love for that time in music history to create a fun, catchy, and impressive debut. If I was to nitpick, I would say I would love to see some growth on their next album to include some different sounds or directions, but Omni Of Halos debut is worth your time if you are a lover of all things 90s alt rock. 8/10

Flash Forward - Endings = Beginnings (Uncle M Music) [Matt Bladen]

Endings = Beginnings has more hooks than a haberdashery, 13 tracks of modern alternative rock from a band who are in their 12th year having formed in 2010. This sixth record shifts their sonic template a little as they get poppier but adds the electronic moments that are all the rage at the moment. These Germans have embraced the pandemic and come out of their studio with one of their best albums yet, blending the pop punk sensibilities of their early career with the some metalcore riffing (and vocals) and layered repeating synths. 

To me it sounded like Panic At The Disco, Bring Me The Horizon and even a bit of Shinedown too on Bloodshot Eyes, with the angsty vocals taking center stage on the massive choruses of Young Blood which features Between You & Me, Over You which is a ballad with As December Falls in duet, though for some electro pop of Our Of Love, which sounds like The Weeknd as does Criminals, may be a little too far for some people. 

Still these Germans have packed in a lot of contrasting styles into this record, though I will say the sequencing could have been a bit better as out of thirteen songs 3 are intro/interlude/outro and Saviour is a guaranteed closer but does not end the record. Other than though Endings = Beginnings is a catchy, alt rock record that is about as modern as it can get, but may be a little light for some in the 'rock' circles. 7/10

After Lapse - Face The Storm (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

Formed in 2018 by drummer Roberto Cappa, keyboardist Pablo Sancha, and guitarist Arturo Rodríguez, only Cappa and Sancha remain from that initial line up but since then they have brought on guitarist Jorge Escudero, bassist Javier Palacios and singer Rubén Miranda and have just release their debut record Face The Storm, having been written and recorded over the course of 2021 and 2022, it was quickly snapped up by Frontiers as After Lapse play the sort of melodic progressive/power metal they love as After Lapse take cues from Circus Maximus, DGM or even Pagan's Mind combining together a technically proficient compositions that also have big chorus hooks and melodies, while also keeping some of their Spanish heritage in the music too. 

Face The Storm balances and the melodic on tracks such as Come Undone where the blast beats and djent riffs are a counterpoint to the soaring choruses. With an odd addition of some applause at the end, the title track much more melodic while Beyond The End is a anthemic ballad Rubén Miranda's vocals sky scraping as the keys of Pablo Sancha so integral to Face The Storm. Even with the riffier tracks such as Through This War have a strong use of synths against the riffs of Jorge Escudero, this track and More both deeply indebted to Dream Theater. After Lapse play classy prog power metal with this debut record a very welcoming introduction. 8/10

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